Update: The 50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles described in this article are no longer available. The bonus offer is currently 30,000 miles.
How would you like to take a trip to Hawaii for two, for free? How about traveling to Europe, again for two, for free? Or a single luxurious round-trip first-class flight to an exotic destination in the Caribbean?
I’m going to tell you how I accrued over 110,000 AA miles in just 3 months, which is enough to do any of the above.
Getting Into “Travel Hacking”
Last year I resolved to take command of my finances, and create a better future for myself. I made a budget (and stuck to it!), increased my payments on student loans, researched retirement and health savings accounts, and started using financial tracking software. Four years ago when I graduated from college, I knew next to nothing about things like credit, retirement, and personal finance, but things really clicked for me in 2015.
Through my research, I stumbled upon the hobby of “travel hacking,” a term that I have mixed feelings about as a software engineer. Travel hacking, at its core, is a way to cheaply or freely obtain flights, hotel nights, and other travel-related expenses. You know those sign-up bonuses you see on the outside of credit card mailers? I’d never given them a second glance, but they’re critical to this hobby.
I’ll write more on travel hacking later, but the general idea is to apply for high-bonus credit cards, meet the varied requirements to secure the bonus, and rinse and repeat. In this case, we’ll be talking about the Citi AAdvantage line of cards, and specifically, the Platinum Select Mastercard.
The Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage World MasterCard occasionally comes with a 50,000-mile bonus. The requirement to get that bonus? Spend $3,000 on that card within 90 days of opening it. For some of you, this might be simple; maybe you’re about to upgrade your home theater, or maybe you have a large family and that’s totally within your average monthly budget. For others, it might be more difficult, and you’ll have to get creative. You can look up “manufactured spending” if you’re interested in how to meet minimums for bonuses. There are far too many methods to meet the minimum spend to cover in just one blog post, but some examples include purchasing gift cards, funding new checking or savings accounts, and using prepaid debit cards.
So, the Citi Platinum card has a 50,000-mile bonus, and you’ll get an additional 3,000 from the spending you’ll put on the card. How did I end up with 110,000? It turns out that with this particular card, there’s a very important loophole to exploit.
Citi decides (for reasons not very well-known) to upgrade some customers that obtain this credit card. These customers go from a World Mastercard to a World Elite Mastercard. It happens out of the blue. What triggers the upgrade isn’t really known. I simply received another envelope in the mail with a new card and a note congratulating me.
This upgrade was critical for me because I now had a different credit card product, and I was eligible again for the full bonus available on the original World Mastercard. After a few days, I re-applied and was approved for the same AAdvantage Platinum credit card. After meeting the minimum spend on both cards, along with some other purchases here and there (general monthly spending), I was sitting happily with over 110,000 total miles.
So where can someone go with this pile of miles? It’s important to note that American Airlines rewards redemptions are changing on March 22, but you still have plenty of points-friendly places available. Take a look at their rewards chart for more information.
I’m personally using my miles for domestic economy flights under the MileSAAver program. I’d encourage you to consider using miles for the lower-mileage MileSAAver flights, as they’ll stretch further than business or first-class. If, however, you’ve never taken a business or first-class flight, it might be worth it to use them on a longer international trip. I’ve heard that traveling first-class is an unforgettable experience, and this is an easy way to at least make one leg of your trip in style.
If you’re traveling solo, it’s possible to fly first-class round-trip to domestic, Caribbean, Mexican, and Central/South American destinations. Opting for business class could net you the same travel for two people. Note that blackout dates apply when using MileSAAver redemptions, so things can get a bit tricky. It’s still definitely possible to plan a great vacation and get your flight for free. Make sure to check the rewards chart and do ample planning before booking your flight!
Getting More AA Miles
The easiest way to get more AA miles is to apply for this card again, or apply for other American Airlines cards, for example the AAdvantage Gold card with a 25,000-mile bonus. If you’ve got miles or points with other airlines, hotels, or banks, it’s also possible to transfer and use them as AA miles. Some examples include Starwood Preferred Guest and Club Carlson. You can also transfer through other American Airlines partners. If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you could transfer them to British Airways, and then redeem those British Airways Avios on an American Airlines MileSAAver flight.4
Is the Loophole Closed?
It seems impossible to tell how the loophole happens, or if there’s anything you can do to trigger it. I’ve yet to receive an upgrade on my second card, and some people are speculating that the loophole has been closed. There’s no guarantee it’ll happen for you.
What I can guarantee you, though, is that 50,000 American Airline miles can still take you to tons of destinations, and the bonus is one of the best ones out there. I encourage you to check it out, and if you have questions about the process or “travel hacking” in general, please leave a comment!